Skip to main content

Full text of "My Country And My People"

See other formats


112          MY    COUNTRY   AND    MY   PEOPLE

end/'1 His great follower Ghuangtse followed up with brilliant
satires against Confucian hypocrisy and futility.

It was all so easy. For Confucianism, with its emphasis on
ceremonialism and anxiety over the distinctions of mourning
periods and the thickness of coffin panels, and with the intense
desire of its followers to seek official positions and save the
world, lent itself easily to caricature. The hatred of the Taoist
against the Confucianist was the natural hatred of the roman-
ticist against the classicist. Perhaps it was not hatred; it was
merely an irresistible, mocking laughter.

From this thorough-going scepticism it was but a step to
romantic escape from the world and return to nature. Laotse
left his post, according to legend, in his old age and disappeared
outside the Hankukuan Pass. Chuangtse was offered a high
post by the King of Ch'u, but replied by asking whether it was
wise to be kept and fed like a pig and then be slaughtered and
offered up on the sacrificial altar. From that moment on
Taoism has always been associated with the recluse, the
retirement to the mountains, the worship of the rural life, the
cultivation of the spirit and the prolongation of man's life, and
the banishment of all worldly cares and worries. And from this
we derive the most characteristic charm of Chinese culture, the
rural ideal of life, art and literature.

The question may be asked: How much was Laotse respon-
sible for this recluse ideal? The Taotehking, ascribed to him, is a
lesser literary accomplishment than the books of Chuangtse,
the Chinese Nietzsche, but it is a more concentrated essence
of old-roguish wisdom. It is, to my mind, the most brilliantly
wicked philosophy of self-protection in world literature.
Besides teaching laissezfaire and passive resistance, it taught
also the wisdom of stupidity, the strength of weakness, the
advantage of lying low, and the importance of camouflage.
One of its maxims was, "Never be the first of the world," for the
simple reason that thus one could never be exposed to attack,
and consequently never fall. It was, so far as I know, the only
known theory of ignorance and stupidity as the best camouflage

1 English readers -will kindly excuse my gram-mar^ as it is fotind impossible
to convey the forceful terseness of the original except by recourse to pidgin.
Ajiy grammatical improvement -will spoil it.